Shivaji K. Moitra
© Copyright 2002 by Shivaji K. Moitra
Sabar Tigga was just another poor little boy who having had the misfortune of being born to poor rustic parents had to work from a tender age like many of his tribe in India to keep the family oven burning. Yet he was different, very different.
He lived with his parents and his three sisters in a hut at the edge of the forest which stretched to the foothills of the Dooars Himalayas.
Those days employed in a government job I stayed in a quaint little town overlooking a Tea Garden which extended four miles to the southern bank of a rain-fed river cascading out of the blue mountains. For an ardent nature-lover like myself it was the perfect place to laud God's incredible creativity. Sabar, then hardly twelve came to help his mother who worked as the cook of our mess. He arrived early in the morning to wash up the utensils, sweep the rooms, fetch water and ready the oven for his mother. Then he left for school inside the Plantation where his father worked as a petty labourer.
But some Sunday afternoons after he had finished the daily chores he guided me deep into the forest. "I come here often with my father to collect firewood and I love the silence and peace of the jungle and all the beautiful animals that live here," he would whisper crouching by a pebbly rivulet. I envied his unique knowledge of animals, their peculiar habits and behaviour. With ease he could mimic the calls of cheetal, gaur, langur or monkey and identify a score of birds like the Indian Pied Hornbill, the Orange billed Blue Magpie, the Paradise Flycatcher and the Peacock by their reverberating calls. His keen eyes could tell which hole in a tree housed a civet cat or a giant squirrel and his keen ears often alerted us against some approaching sloth bear or a herd of foraging wild boars. He initiated me to the taste of many a delicious wild fruit and I thoroughly enjoyed every foray with him into the jungle for each one had been a unique learning experience.
"Sabar, what would you like to be when you grow up?" I asked him one day sitting under a fig tree to watch the peacocks.
"I want to become
a Ranger, dada (elder brother), so that I can protect these spectacular
animals and their beautiful home," he replied instantly. One winter morning
Sabar came up hastily to inform that his mother was down with high fever
and will not be coming to work for a few days. Three days later she died
of some mysterious illness. But Sabar continued to come and do the sundry
job though he was a completely changed person. He grew sombre and pensive.
Sometime afterwards the Tea Estate management brought in automated machinery.
Hundreds of labourers were summarily dismissed as a consequence and Sabar's
father too lost his job. Sabar could no longer attend the Company's school.
Soon the family was plunged into debt and poverty. One day Sabar told me
that the police had picked up his father when he went to sell a leopard
skin. I never heard of him again because a month later I was transferred
out to a different district. Twelve years elapsed before an official tour
brought me to the Dooars again, not far from the place where I worked before.
An old acquaintance who had lately grown big in the construction business
implored to be my host. Aware of my indefatigable love for nature he proposed
to take me on a boat-ride through the forest after lunch, which I accepted
gladly. The forest had receded a few miles in the last decade through the
acts of man and the river was a convenient way of reaching it. As we entered
a reasonably wooded tract of the forest, I allowed myself to be enraptured
by the light and shade and strange noises of the jungle. But suddenly the
unmistakable tuck-tuck sound of the woodcutter's axe caught my ears. My
host told me they were the timber thieves. "Are they dangerous? Should
we back off?" I asked apprehensively. "No, they just melt away into the
forest when the forest guards arrive," he said. As we moved up a little
further, the sound abruptly ceased to come. Then suddenly from within the
dense foliage hugging the left bank jumped out a half-clad tribesman, waving
wildly and shouting out my name. I was startled. At no more than 25 he
appeared a weary middle-aged man with a furrowed face. "Dada, I'm Sabar,"
he crooned finally. "What are you doing here?" I enquired. "I steal timber,"
he answered, a sarcastic smile on his lips. With steamy eyes I mused, "What
a cruel end to a great ambition!"
(Messages are forwarded by The
So, when you write to an author, please type his/her name
in the subject line of the message.)
Shivaji's Story List And Biography